Creating the Third Place – Physical Space

Welcome back!  I’ve been a bit busy having a great time doing Storytime at the Cedarburg Public Library for 3-5 year olds on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Really hits home, reminding me why I chose this profession!  The kids are fantastic and the Caregivers are great.  Cedarburg is a lovely city with great folks!

The Third Place and Physical Space

Physical Space is the second aspect in creating the Third Place.  You already have the physical space in your library – in fact, unless you are fortunate to be building or renovating your existing space, your physical space is already designated.  Many of you, however, don’t have a Teen or YA Area – just for them!

This is because even though Margaret Edwards’ book The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts, published in 1974 told us about the need for teen programming, it is really only in the past 10 years or so that libraries have begun to really devote space and resources to teens.

I have visited a few libraries and attended a few presentations on Teen Spaces and Children’s Spaces.  There are as many ways to creatively use existing space as there are libraries and librarians!  You just have to decide where your dedicated space will be, set a budget for transforming it into your new space, and go for it!

Ok, it’s not that easy!  Planning is the most important aspect of converting a space.  You simply cannot overplan!  Having said that, let me go over the idea of the physical space, what is important to remember, and some examples of spaces converted at low cost.  For these examples, I’ll use teen spaces.

Let’s say you have a space designated for teen use.  You have a 10’X10′ room.  You already own the shelving units, books and computers – maybe a few desk units and chairs.

1.  Get your Teen Advisory Board (TAB) involved.  What do they want in their space?  What do they need? Right now write down everything they say – try to keep them a little grounded, but let their ideas strut around the room like free-range chickens!

2. Establish a budget.  It’s fine if it’s as low as $0.  Really, it is!  Of course, the more you have the nicer things you can buy, as you know.

3.  Compare the TAB’s wish list to the budget – now you will have to start making choices or inspiring your teens and friends group to raise money!  (At a recent WLA  session, there was a teen librarian whose teens raised almost $5000 by doing a haunted house at the library!)

4.  Funding.  See if the Friends group is willing to spend some money on the teens, make a presentation using well spoken teens to present their side of the case.  When you get a commitment of funds from the FG, get your teens to start thinking of ideas on how to raise money.

5. Sweat/Grade Equity.  Say What?  Say you want some groovy computer stations, but you don’t have thousands of dollars to shell out for a commercial station.  Why not find a FG member or TAB member who is skilled at woodworking and design the desks and create them for a fraction of the cost, possibly even for school credit from the shop teacher!

6.  Donations.  Time for you and your teens to work the street – find neighborhood businesses that might donate money, coupons, fabric, wood, metal working, neon – be sure they get recognition for their donations, and a receipt for their taxes!

7.  Be Creative!! Want some groovy shelves?  One library used old skateboards, removed the trucks, and mounted them on the wall.  Other found items for decorating could be old electric guitars, bicycles, board games – imagination is your friend!

8. Create a scale model, at least with the room and paper cutouts of the furniture, The Hedberg Library in Janesville, WI created a space by turning the shelves so it was a little more private, and simply adding some neon, etc.

9.  Put it all together!  By involving your TAB and any other teens you can, you have given them ownership of the space.  THe more involved they are, the ore likely they are to A.)  Get what they want in the space, not what you think they want and B.) They are more likely to self-police the area, helping to stop vandalism and theft.

Now take care of the space!  Welcome teens into it, but be sure to make sure they know the rules.  If you have to enforce a rule, be consistent, be firm and don’t be afraid!  Remember they are just kids – their brains are still forming synapses and growing – sometimes their wiring is a little screwy as the develop – remember what you were like?

Next time – the Virtual Space


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